Ex-FLDS members find tears, complaints ironic

Hearing the FLDS mothers complain about having their families ripped from them is bitterly ironic to Richard Holm.

“The families there have been stolen and kidnapped from their fathers,” he told the Deseret News on Tuesday.

Holm was kicked out of the church in 2003 by its leader, Warren Jeffs, and .his two wives and children were told to leave him. They were placed with his brother.

“They (FLDS leaders) are guilty of what they’re accusing the authorities of doing,” Holm said.

Under Jeffs, dozens of men were told to “repent from a distance” for various sins. Some left the FLDS Church and have been speaking out against the polygamous sect, while others continue to be seeking penance and hope to be allowed back in.

Hundreds of teenagers also have been kicked out or run away from the polygamous sect. Known as the “Lost Boys,” some have wound up living on the streets or crashing in crowded apartments. Some have turned to drugs or crime.

Those who work with the “Lost Boys” say the children are viewing what happened in Texas as another raid.

“They have a kind of solidarity with the FLDS,” said Michelle Benward, the director of New Frontiers for Families, which runs a youth home in St. George for some of the children.

She said many of the young men are worried for their families, and they’ve had to talk to them about abuse versus religion.

“There’s 50-some odd years of indoctrination that this is likely to happen. You have a prophet telling you it’s going to happen. You believe it’s revelation, not behavior,” she said. “It’s hard for some of them to separate what’s the right thing to do with what’s gone on because it’s so extreme.”

Utah and Arizona have created the “Safety Net” to help women and children in abusive situations within the closed polygamous societies. Some have used the network of nonprofit and state resources to leave, others have merely sought assistance but decided to stay within their group.

Holm said he was pleased to see his sisters, Mary Ann, Marie and Patricia, appear in photographs published in the Deseret News taken from inside the YFZ Ranch in Eldorado, Texas.

“At least I know they’re OK,” he said.

Yet on some level, their complaints of mistreatment by the state fall on deaf ears.

“I think it’s an act of desperation to a degree. They don’t know what else to do,” Holm said. “They howl and cry that they’re being ripped away from this wonderful family condition they’re in when they’ve got blood on their hands. They did it to me and several hundred other men.”

Carolyn Jessop, whose ex-husband Merril Jessop runs the YFZ Ranch, suggested the mothers at least have a right to due process — something others cast out of the FLDS Church did not get.

“This whole thing is getting muddled and mucked into religion and polygamy. Hey, they (Texas authorities) went in and found abuse,” she said. “They took these kids out because they physically saw and found abuse.”

In interviews, the FLDS people on the YFZ Ranch have refused to address allegations of child abuse and sex abuse leveled against them.

Holm had to fight his wives for joint custody of his children. Even now, he says, the women tell their children that he is a “wicked apostate.”

Jessop, who chronicled her flight from the FLDS Church in her book “Escape,” took her eight children with her. One has gone back to the FLDS Church.

Jessop has relatives who are on the ranch but insists that the case is about abuse.

“Everybody totally accepts that a little girl born into a monogamous family, that she has the right to help if she’s being abused. But once you touch a little girl that’s been born into a polygamous family, everybody goes through the roof and it’s ‘religious persecution,”‘ she said. “That is not the case. That little girl has as much right to protection by the United States government as a little girl that’s born into a monogamous family. We just need to cut through the crap.”


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Ben Winslow, Deseret News, Apr. 16, 2008, http://deseretnews.com

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday April 17, 2008.
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